Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has officially declared the Northern Cape a disaster area in light of the drought that has crippled the province for the past number of years.
She announced that R200 million will be directed in funding to the area to address the crisis.
This comes just a day after Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen visited the area and warned that “failure to recognise the severity of the drought that has gripped all nine of our provinces – and any further delays in putting in place measures to mitigate the impact of this threat – will have catastrophic consequences for our nation.”
Today the DA’s Northern Cape NCOP Member Willie Aucamp said the DA welcomes Minister Sisulu’s decision… which it believes is due to the “sustained pressure” from the DA over the past few months.
He said the R200 million, while long overdue, is welcomed, adding: “While this is a step in the right direction, more is required in order to bring widespread relief to the already devastated provincial agricultural sector.
According to Aucamp at least R600 million is needed to alleviate the negative effects of the five-year drought, with over 60 000 jobs on the line.
“I have had a personal conversation with President Ramaphosa about this, ensuring he is fully briefed on the extent of this crisis,” said Aucamp in a statement on Friday. The President is in the Northern Cape at the moment for the ANC birthday celebration.
Aucamp reiterated the DA’s call for Northern Cape Premier, Zamani Saul, to invoke Section 25 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) in order to make available additional emergency funds to provide immediate drought relief to farmers.
“The DA-run Western Cape government has already done so, and in turn is assisting hundreds of farmers and farming communities in this time of distress.
“We urge Premier Saul to not let another day go by without taking decisive action by freeing up the funds required to mitigate the drought crisis in the Northern Cape.”
Speaking in Kimberley on Thursday, DA Leader Steenhuisen said the drought’s affects will be felt by all South Africans – with an impact on the country’s food security.
He said nowhere is the “looming catastrophe more evident than right here in the Northern Cape, and it is perhaps a blessing in disguise that the ANC has chosen to host its birthday celebration here.
“President Ramaphosa has now been in the Northern Cape for the better part of a week and would have seen first-hand the devastation caused by the ongoing drought. He cannot later claim to be shocked by this situation.”
Steenhuisen suggested all provinces should adapt a drought response similar to that employed by the DA-led Western Cape when Cape Town was facing Day Zero.
He said however that while Cape Town avoided Day Zero, “the drought in the Western Cape is far from over. Parts of the Karoo, the West Coast and the Overberg are still in danger, but at least there is a plan in place…
Steenhuisen said while the Northern Cape is the worst hit, it is worrying that other provinces facing their own versions of Day Zero are not acting with a sense of urgency or concern.
“In towns like Butterworth in the Eastern Cape, Day Zero has already arrived, but there is hardly an outcry in the media beyond the town. And many other Eastern Cape and Free State towns are not far behind.” (Carte Blanche will be broadcasting a segment on the Eastern Cape drought crisis this Sunday.)
It is estimated that over 37% of rural communities in South Africa are affected by the drought, said Steenhuisen.
“An AgriSA study at the beginning of last year found that around 30,000 farm workers had already lost their jobs due to the drought. That number has no doubt climbed since then. We have to act, and we have to act now,” said Steenhuisen.
“This is not a matter of finger pointing and blaming. It is a matter of working together to ensure that whatever can be done, is done to protect South Africans from the impact of this drought.
“Let us stand together in tackling the drought crisis. We have shown in Cape Town that it is possible. Now let’s do the same for the rest of the country.”
A farmer praying with his sheep last month:
The reality 😭 this absolutely broke my heart.My mother sent these to me this morning… Finally had a little rain,…